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Facebook Returns to Campus Roots With ‘Groups for Schools’

Before Facebook opened its social network to anyone on the Internet, the platform was limited to college students.

And now, it seems, Facebook is returning to its campus roots.

Today, the social-networking giant unveiled “Groups for Schools,” a college-centric feature that is restricted to users with active .edu e-mail addresses. The feature lets college students create groups for their dorms, majors, or even parties that they’re planning.

Each institution has a main hub, where visitors can search through the groups at their colleges and create new ones. The groups come in three flavors: open, which are available to anyone in that college’s community, closed, which are limited to private members, and secret, which can be viewed only by members.

The extra layer of community means that college students who are worried about their statuses and photos reaching relatives or potential employers will have a digital buffer that keeps sensitive material a little more private.

And in an effort to create groups that look a little more like study sessions, Facebook added a feature called “Files” to its college groups. It lets users share lecture notes, assignments, and schedules, with a maximum upload size of 25 megabytes.

Michael Staton, a founder of Inigral, said he isn’t worried that Facebook’s new feature will ruin the value of his company, which created a Facebook application that offers private social networks for colleges. He says he first heard of Facebook’s plans for this new feature about four months ago, when he learned that the company was testing it.

He acknowledges being frustrated that Facebook isn’t more proactive in engaging with its developer community. But he says the new feature is good for his company in the long run. He says it validates Inigral’s college-specific focus and lets the company concentrate its resources on building additional features for colleges instead of sinking money into building basic network features like walls.

“Facebook is basically doing a lot of the work for us to get students to communicate,” he says. “And then we can focus on translating what those communications mean, what schools should think about it, and how they should engage with the students that are using those communication tools.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company did not have any more details to share about the feature’s introduction.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by Coletivo Mambembe]

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